Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska is investing in research into next-generation batteries to replace the lithium-ion units that are currently used in phones and cars, and to store power from solar plants.
The tycoon’s En+ Group Plc, which owns power plants and the largest aluminum maker outside China, is studying sodium-ion and aluminum graphene-ion tech, said Anna Korotchenkova, research and development chief, in a Moscow interview.
Production of lithium needs to quadruple in a decade to meet growing demand for batteries to power electric vehicles, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said last year. Prices rose almost fourfold in the past three years.
Aluminum graphene-ion technology may be best suited to replace lithium-ion batteries in electric cars and gadgets, while sodium-based units would be better for storing power from solar and wind, according to Korotchenkova.
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Sodium has about 70 percent of the energy intensity of lithium, but is cheaper, making it more useful in industry where size is less important, she said. En+ hopes for a first prototype by the end of the year. Aluminum is abundant and has three times the energy intensity of lithium, Korotchenkova said.
The investment in battery research is seen at 60 million rubles ($1 million) over three years. If successful, En+ would use sodium-based batteries at its own Abakan solar plant, as well as developing them as a separate business.
Any working aluminum-graphene technology may be sold to global battery producers or En+ may seek joint ventures.